Thursday, August 13, 2015

The wisdom of the aged and a genteel woman Camden NC Apr 23-24 2015

Don's maternal grandmother's family comes from North Carolina.  It was only her marriage to a Yankee that lead to her three children, including Don's mother, being born and raised in the north.  

But the family stayed close and one person, Nancy, AKA Cousin Nancy (or Naincie as it is pronounced) made many visits up north with her husband Clay (Cly) and Don's family ventured south every so often.  (Thus his visit 50 years ago to the Outer Banks.) I met Nancy soon after Don and I were engaged in 1994 and took an immediate liking to her.  That she was as obsessed with genealogy as I was only one attraction.  She has a prodigious memory and can recite tales with unbelievable detail and an overwhelming sense of how much she cares, and has cared, about everyone who has touched her life.  At almost 90 years old she has not lost one iota of interest in other people but she does not have internet and we had not known soon enough when we would be in her neck of the woods.  No matter.  We called 3 days ahead and typically she said she'd be happy to see us "whenever" we got there.  So, after leaving OBX we drove to the little town of Camden, NC which is right next to Elizabeth City (where the Wright Bros would muster all their supplies before taking them by boat to Kitty Hawk to build the various incarnations of their airplanes) 
Nancy had just arrived home from grocery shopping but welcomed us with cold North Carolina iced tea (and I take mine SWEET like they do in the South) and we set to talking about our plans and adventures.  Of course she and I got involved in family questions and before long I had my laptop with old family photographs and questions and she was pulling out boxes of photos and scrapbooks she'd made over the years.  

We had parked our rig in a spot in front of their farmhouse that looked like it was created for it, but about 15 minutes after we arrived, as I was settling the pets after their walk, a man came and knocked on the door.  He wanted to make sure everything was alright and if we had broken down.  When he heard we were Nancy's relatives he introduced himself as her neighbor and admitted he'd also been making sure we weren't "up to anything" since he keeps an eye on "Miss Naincie." 15 minutes later another neighbor stopped by and since we were standing near the street a local policeman stopped by. Turned out he was born and raised in Columbia, NC. Nancy then asked for and was given a grand tour of the rig and sat for awhile chatting before we repaired to the house for more conversation.

I showed her the pictures of our stopover in Columbia, NC and she was able to give me the history of virtually every building and tell stories of their family and others, as well as the history of the German man who owned the Cinema.  We managed to while away the afternoon and then she suggested we go for dinner in Elizabeth City.    

At dinner, the owner and numerous people - young and old- came over to say hello and share their news and greetings with Nancy and she introduced us to each one in turn telling each a little about the other.  I was in awe as she told of her students (she was a teacher) and arranging trips for them and then began to tell us about all the special ones who'd overcome odds and gone on to great heights and in each story her voice was suffused with love and pride for all of them.

We left the restaurant and I grabbed a few photos of the harbor and then we returned to the house and RV for the night.

The following day a friend of Nancy's who comes everyday to help her out arrived in the morning and after we all chatted for awhile it was decided we would got for lunch at one of their favorite haunts and then take a drive around town.  When we got to the lunch place it was filled so Nancy suggested her next favorite, a drive in "if we didn't mind" was Sonic!  I had never been to a Sonic and one of the highlights of my infrequent trips to the states as a child (I was born and raised on St Croix in the Virgin Islands) was a trip to either Horn and Hardart Automat (and for those of you who don't know what THAT was follow the link) or a drive in restaurant.  I only got to one of those once so this was thrilling.  They could have served margarine on cardboard and I would have been thrilled.
After our artery clogging meal-why not when it's only once in awhile?- we drove through Elizabeth City and followed along as Nancy pointed out where friends and family had lived and told the stories of her courtship with Clay and then out to the site of the WWII blimp hangar in Weeksville.  A little known story, of course Nancy remembered it well and told us all about it.  

As we drove back through acres of what had been Clay's and her farm

she told us the story after story and I sat amazed at the heart and genuine goodness of this woman who so often, with her husband, defied convention and looked at each and every person they met as a full and equal human being with their own story.  I always liked Cousin Nancy but I left that afternoon loving her and feeling sad that our lives will not have her present for as many years as I'd like. 

Cousin Nancy and Don


  1. Nice post! Loved reading about Nancy and you visit with her. Looks like a beautiful area.

    1. It is. Elizabeth City is very nice. It was fun having just visited there to then read McCullough's The Wright Brothers.

  2. This sounds like a lot of fun. Glad you're keeping a record.


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